Revival

Challenging times lay ahead when singing resumed in 1946 and sadly some loyal choristers never returned. Baritone Bill Raynor was one – he had served with the Royal Corps of Signals in Burma and as a victim of the horrors of the Bangkok/Siam railway atrocities is buried in Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery, with four thousand other allied prisoners of war. Sam Best was no longer a young man but his decision to return to lead the choir after the war was vital to its survival until his retirement in 1949. However, numbers were down, sometimes barely into double figures at concerts during the fifties. A photo of the 1952 Concert shows just 18 singers plus conductor and accompanist. The choir faced competition from changing lifestyles with new alternatives such as television but was fortunate in that a core of determined men and a loyal community following helped the choir to soldier on.

The choir was a small but tight unit and made progress between 1949 and 1956 under Cyril Sanday, a good conductor with a sense of humour. Once while conducting a lively piece his baton flew into the audience whereupon he vowed to practise conducting with a boomerang! An old tradition was re-established when a 37-seater bus took the choir to Mablethorpe in 1950, an annual event which continued for a number of years.  The Carlton Annual Concerts were popular, with the choir showing enterprise in its choice of guests, which included Kathleen Mitchell (Elocutionist), Tom Jones (Humorist), John Roberts (ventriloquist), Tommy (dummy) and magician Eric Newton, the ‘Mapperley Mystic’, who later joined the choir. In the mid fifties the choir was subjected to a takeover bid! Nottinghamshire Education Committee offered to supply a conductor, provide all music and a room for rehearsals, but it would also mean that the choir would lose it identity as it would become a further education class. The choir decided to soldier on and this was perhaps a turning point in its fortunes.

After a decade of fighting for survival, the tide began to turn with the arrival in 1956 of Norman Edgar. He is said to have “brought a wealth of musical knowledge and a youthful, friendly and positively firm direction – and membership began to increase with an improvement in sound quality”. This was the start of a revival: numbers began to grow, though slowly at first, performance improved and audiences were bigger. The 1960 Annual Concert, in aid of the Carlton Old People’s Welfare Funds, was so popular that some of the audience of over 300 had to stand. Secretary Albert Elliott said “it was the biggest audience and the best concert we have held” and that the choir had almost doubled its numbers in a year. At the end of 1962, however, Norman Edgar left the choir in order to pursue his teaching career.

Norman Edgar was succeeded by Albert Finch, Senior Officer with the Notts Fire Brigade and former Conductor of the Fire Brigade MVC. Albert brought with him “new zeal and enthusiasm, firm discipline and a wide musical knowledge”. By now, the choir numbered around 36 and was ready to take further steps forward. These years saw signs of a more professional approach – uniforms, a portable concert platform and the choir’s first Publicity Manager. Albert Finch certainly was not lacking in ambition; he asked the choir if they ‘wished to expand their boundaries or remain parochial and restricted’. Although numbers were generally up, at one time reaching 36 in concert, the pattern was inconsistent and so recruitment, particularly of younger singers, became more of a priority.  In spite of all efforts membership did not hit the forties until 1972. It was in the summer of that year the choir suffered a blow when Albert Finch announced that, now not in the best of health, he was leaving the area and therefore resigning from the choir. The search for a successor was on.

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